Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another labelling fail

Customers overlooking unit pricing

Shoppers are spending more at the checkouts because they are not using unit prices to work out the cheapest brands. Research shows that fewer than 50 per cent of shoppers overseas look at the unit price when buying groceries and experts say the take-up rate in Australia is as low. Unit pricing was introduced here just over a year ago.

[I'd like to see the research behind that 50%. I see lots of people in my local supermarket loading up their carts but it's a rarity to see them stop and read a label. What people say they do and what they actually do can be two different things.]

Gary Mortimer, from QUT's School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, said that with so much information on labels, like price, barcode, size and description, shoppers could be overwhelmed, or simply not have the time to do the maths.

Ian Jarrett, of the Queensland Consumers Association, which has been lobbying for unit prices to be printed in the same type size recommended for packaging labels, said there were big savings to be made.

His survey of prices at one supermarket came up with a trolley full of savings. For example, sultanas in six small packs cost $10.38 a kilo but only $3.79 a kilo if bought in a 1kg bag. A tub of Meadowlea margarine cost 50c for each 100g if bought in a 1kg tub, 70c for each 100g if bought in a 500g tub or 78c in a 250g tub.

But Dr Mortimer said there was a need for caution. "A larger packet may be cheaper per gram than a smaller packet but if you have to pay a higher retail price to start with, it becomes a false economy if you end up wasting half the contents of the larger packet because you simply cannot use it all."

He said it was also important to remember unit pricing did not take into consideration such things as different plies of toilet paper and different concentrations of products such as washing detergents and cordial. "Unit pricing does not capture different densities, concentrations and strengths and these need to be taken into consideration," he said.

Mr Mortimer said different demographics were attracted to unit pricing. "There are some shoppers who think 'I am pretty well paid, I don't need to save money'," he said. "And there are some Gen-Y shoppers, and particularly male shoppers, who think 'I want to get in and get out. I don't have time to look at the different numbers on the ticket'.

"But if you are a mum with three kids from a working-class environment and need to buy 800g or a kilo for lunches for the kids and dad this week and you can wait to be served, you can make a saving."


Speculate, Speculate, Speculate

Medical researchers seem to do little else. The claim below that sunshine lowers MS risk is totally naive. What their results more likely show is that people in poor health don't go out much

The Australian love affair with the great outdoors may have contributed to lower rates of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to research from The Australian National University.

The Ausimmune Study, coordinated by Associate Professor Robyn Lucas from the ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment and involving researchers from across Australia, found that people who spend more time in the sun, and those with higher vitamin D levels, may be less likely to develop MS.

MS is a chronic disease of the brain and spinal cord and has long baffled researchers, who continue to search for its cause and cure. This study, published in the February 8 2011, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, takes us one step closer to understanding the risk factors that may lead to MS.

Associate Professor Lucas said that many people who experience preliminary symptoms of the sort that occur in MS – known as a ‘first event’ – go on to develop the disease. The Ausimmune Study found that the risk of having a first event was lower in people with higher sun exposure – over the whole of their lives as well as in the months preceding the event, compared with unaffected people of the same age and sex and living in the same region of Australia.

“People with the highest levels of vitamin D were also less likely to have a diagnosed first event than people with the lowest levels,” she said.

The study is the first to look at sun exposure and vitamin D status in people who had experienced a first event with the type of symptoms found in MS.

“Previous studies have looked at people who already have MS,” said Dr Lucas. “This has made it difficult to know whether having the disease led them to change their habits in the sun or their diet. That is, it has not been possible to work out if low sun exposure or vitamin D cause the disease or were caused by having the disease.”

Associate Professor Lucas said that the study showed, for the first time in a human population, that the effects of sun exposure and vitamin D act independently of each other, with each having a beneficial effect in decreasing the risk of a first event.

“Further research should evaluate both sun exposure and vitamin D for the prevention of MS,” she said.


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